There is a certain female pop star who has made a fortune encouraging her sycophants to indulge whatever base passions they experience, because, she says, we are all Born that WayTM. The adoption of this slogan has “gone viral” and is employed to affirm and excuse nearly every conceivable type of deviancy. What remains of our collective sense of right and wrong may soon give way to this insidious formula for human existence.
As argument (relying upon good reason and logic), Born that WayTM is poorly crafted and simmering in fallacy. It goes something like this:
- If there is a God, then
- God intentionally made us a certain way, the way we were born, and
- If so, every inclination we experience, so long as we were born with it, is good and worthy of embrace.
- Therefore, there is no problem or sin in acting upon any particular inclination, so long as we believe we were Born that WayTM.
The problems begin as soon as the Born that WayTM anthem ends. First, it cannot be consistently applied. Do we encourage the person who carries the genetic markers that provide a predilection for alcoholism or addiction to drink to excess or use dangerous drugs because the person is Born that WayTM? Do we decline to propose medical treatment for the cystic fibrosis patient, or a child with cleft palate, because they were Born that WayTM? We do not, because a well-formed society identifies behaviors and conditions that are undesirable, and we use our reason and knowledge to remedy them.
No matter how catchy the tune, Born that WayTM is no imprimatur on the goodness of a particular characteristic in a person’s makeup. Rather, the fundamental intention of Born that WayTM is to excuse sinful inclinations on the basis that if there is a Creator, the way a person emerges from the womb is the sum and substance of their being. No need for improvement or growth. No point in self-examination or discipline.
It’s the same tired refrain of the Evil One: “Go ahead, if you want it, it must be good.” And just as Eve in Genesis tells God – “The serpent tricked me into it” (3:13) – the very same trick is embedded in Born that WayTM.
As a device to reshape the vision of self, Born that WayTM sounds good. It removes limits on behavior, but it also rejects an immensely important and foundational aspect of our nature, because adherents to the Judeo-Christian tradition know that we were born as fallen creatures in need of salvation. To repeat the refrain of Born that WayTM is to embrace our fallen nature and indulge every craven inclination.
The Church teaches that before the fall of man, Adam and Eve were “…constituted in an original ‘state of holiness and justice’ [which was to] ‘share in… divine life.’” (CCC 375). “By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer and die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original justice.’” (CCC 376).
At this moment in creation (i.e., before the Fall), Born that WayTM would properly affirm the goodness of humanity, because it precedes the temptation and exercise of free will that brought about the Fall itself. It would, in other words, be True.
Had we remained in that state of “original justice”, Born that WayTM would continue to affirm the intention of Creation. But evil and free will intervened, causing us to lose “The ‘mastery’ over the world that God offered man from the beginning [which] was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.” (CCC 377).
Because of the Fall, “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay.’ Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground,’ for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (CCC 400). And, “After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin…” (CCC 401).
And potentially, all of Creation is affected. Monsignor Knox, in his book Difficulties (3rd Ed., 1958), theorizes but does not opine on why even animals suffer in our fallen world: “It may be that if God had been preparing the world for a humanity which, he foresaw, would not fall, he would have made it a more comfortable place for rabbits to live in. I do not know… The consequences of the Fall consist not so much in the infliction of certain punishments as in the withdrawal of certain privileges, which privileges were from the first more than man had any strict right to expect. We are not being punished for Adam’s sin, but for a race – sinfulness common to him and us.” (p. 171). In this sense, Born that WayTM is also the “Great Amen” to a fallen world.
Divine Revelation teaches that man is fallen and in need of salvation. Born that WayTM rejects this fundamental teaching. Although it’s catchy, it sounds good, and it may even feel good, Born that WayTM is a tired lie that gets repackaged and represented with abundant shimmer and glimmer to fool the misdirected and pagans. It drives a pursuit of happiness oriented after concupiscence. In other words, without God, our very desires are flawed. Our “control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered” – We can’t even see which of our desires will lead to true happiness, without God’s help!
God does not intend for us to remain Born that WayTM; He intends that we recognize our need for redemption. But He respects our free will. Born that WayTM is the exercise of free will at the expense of relationship with God. In that sense, it’s exactly what a Liar who intends to keep us from God would have us believe. As conclusion, Born that WayTM is both incomplete and long expired.